We are still in the interregnum between Merdeka Day on August 31 and Malaysia Day on September 16, which should be period when Malaysians should mull the fate and future of the country, whether we can be rid of corruption, religious bigotry and racial extremism as the perquisites to become a top world-class nation of unity, freedom, justice, excellence and integrity or condemned to mediocrity and worse, a failed and rogue state and a klepto-theocracy.
These thoughts came to me when I read the latest poem by the 83-year-old former top civil servant, Tan Sri Alwi Jantan on the 62nd Merdeka Day, viz:
A Call To Unity
Where are my brothers and sisters,
Who together built this nation.
There are still outstanding matters
Needing our urgent attention.
Let’s rid of religious bigotry,
And racial extremism,
Of corruption and adversity,
Abuse of power and cronyism.
Let us condemn hate speeches,
And any divisive action,
Let’s get rid of foreign preachers
Who would stir up racial tension.
We need to rebuild our power
In our cultural diversity,
And together we strive for
Racial harmony and unity.
Only then can we rest assured
Our nation has prospered.
Born in Dungun, Terengganu on 16th April 1935, Alwi had a long civil service career belonging to the first Merdeka generation of public servants, starting in the civil service in August 1958, and who went on to serve as Director-General of National Archives and Library Malaysia in 1971; Selangor State Secretary (1972-76); Secretary-General of three Ministries, namely Local Government and Federal Territory, Health and Agriculture; Deputy Secretary-General of Prime Minister’s Department (1981-1984), ending his public service career as Director-General of Public Services Department (PSD) (1987-1990).
Alwi’s mournful poem “Cry my Beloved Country”, which rang in the New Year of 2017 for a very troubled Malaysia, was the plaintive cry of all patriotic Malaysians who loved Malaysia and grievously hurt at the harm we had done to ourselves.
CRY MY BELOVED COUNTRY
When I grew up in the kampong,
Life was sublime bonding was strong.
I had many friends young and old,
Rich and poor were all in the fold.
As I grew up I moved out of town
To study in a world I hadn’t known.
To part from friends was not easy,
It was for my future they say.
I was sent to the Malay College,
A school built for the privileged.
Life had become quite hectic,
To meet the school’s objective.
From school I was sent to varsity,
Located in Singapore city.
An institute with melting pot
Of all races, the whole lot.
I studied for new skills to acquire
Which four long years would require.
The country was approaching independence,
We wanted to be part of the new nation.
Our leaders laid the foundation
For a multi-racial nation.
We strived and toiled to make it happen.
Everyone was united then.
Alas, now that I have retired,
I see the country being squandered.
Race and religion are touted,
Law and order are flouted.
The economy is in tatters
From which everyone suffers.
Ya Allah, give us compassion,
Show us the way to salvation.
Cry my beloved country.
O, what will the future be.
Perth, 1st January 2017
But Alwi sprang back, like all resilient Malaysians within the same month, to dare to hope and dream again for a better Malaysia, with the following poem:
Do I see rainbow in the sky
With droves of birds flying by?
Do I see a lush greenery
Flora and fauna of sheer beauty?
Do I see rich traditions
From ancient civilisations?
Do I see children playing together
Of various races and gender?
Do I see a true democracy
With freedom of speech and assembly?
Do I see honest leaders
The nation’s burden on their shoulders?
Do I see neither corruption
Nor radical race and religion?
Do I see high integrity
No abuse of power and authority?
Do I see great prosperity
People living in peace and harmony?
Do I see a progressive nation
The love and pride of everyone?
This is only my dream, my friend.
But I’ll dream to the very end.
20th January 2017.
In November 2017, he issued a “clarion call” to Save Malaysia, with the following poem:
THE CLARION CALL
Where are my brothers and sisters,
My friends of yester years?
Who together built this nation
With a democratic constitution?
The time has come for us to rise
In unison and in one voice
To save our beloved nation
For our future generations.
We have to fight against corruption,
And call for clean administration.
We have to fight against nepotism,
And abuse of power and cronyism.
We have to install good governance,
And law and order maintenance.
We have to fight religious bigotry,
And preserve racial unity.
We have to get rid of corrupt leaders
As well as their boot lickers.
We have to remove kleptoracy,
And re-establish true democracy.
Only then can the future be assured,
And our progress be measured
As a multi-racial country
Living in peace and harmony.
23rd November 2017
In early 2018, Alwi Jantan continued to root for democracy, change and reform in Malaysia and composed the following poem:
WE THE G25
We seek true democracy,
Envisioned by our founding fathers.
We seek multi-racial harmony,
Religious freedom and equal genders.
We condemn kleptocracy,
Corruption and nepotism,
Racial and religious bigotry,
Power abuse and cronyism.
We call for good governance,
And maintenance of law and order,
Free from political interference,
And power and influence vender.
We promote justice and mercy.
For national unity we strive.
We speak for the silent majority.
We are members of G25.
10th January 2018
Alwi Jantan’s hope and dream and those of patriotic Malaysians came true when Malaysians in the 14th General Election shocked themselves and the world with a historic decision bringing about a peaceful and democratic transition of power in Putrajaya and gave the country a second chance to rebuild a New Malaysia.
This joy, pride and hope was very well expressed in a poem composed by Alwi Jantan a week after the watershed and historic 14GE:
REJOICE MY BELOVED COUNTRY
Rejoice o rejoice, victory is ours.
Let’s rebuild our beloved country.
The pride of our founding fathers,
For the benefit of all and sundry.
Let’s cleanse the administration
Of the corrupt and greedy.
Let’s rid of racial discrimination
And religious bigotry.
Let’s reestablish good governance
And remanage the economy.
Let’s reinforce law and order maintenance
And an independent judiciary.
Let there be freedom again
Of expression and assembly.
Only then will we regain
The fruits of our victory.
16th May 2018
Eighteen months after the historic decision of May 9, 2018, Quo Vadis Malaysia?
Malaysia is at the crossroads – to go forwards or to go backwards.
The 14GE mandate, despite all the undemocratic hurdles and lopsided playing-field, was very clear – to reset nation-building policies and directions for the fulfilment of the Malaysian Dream to be a top world-class nation which is “a beacon of light to a disturbed and distracted world” and not a failed, rogue, kakistocratic and kleptocratic state!
When he was Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razal unleashed the most irresponsible, vicious and toxic politics of race, religion, hate, fear and lies in Malaysian history, utterly reckless of its divisive, provocative and polarizing character to tear asunder a fragile plural society comprising of diverse races, religions, languages and cultures!
In his last months as Prime Minister, Najib was responsible for lies, fake news and false information – particularly when he said on the eve of the 14GE, that there were no Malays at Pakatan Harapan rallies, that the tens of thousands who gathered to hear Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in Langkawi, Gombak, Jerlun, Batu Katil, Putrajaya, Lembah Pantai, Pandan, Kuantan and Wangsa Maju were DAP supporters “bussed in” by DAP, when the Special Branch knew that in the 52-year history of DAP, we have never bussed anyone to any DAP or Pakatan function.
The use of the fake news and hate speech to bring about a toxic politics of race, religion is not a new phenomenon in Malaysian politics, except that in the last two months, it has reached new heights capable to far-reaching consequences to destroy national unity and inter-racial and inter-religious harmony in Malaysia.
There is great urgency that the Pakatan Harapan Government re-state the fundamental principles laid down by our forefathers in the Merdeka Constitution 1957 , Malaysia Constitution 1963 and Rukunegara to lay the basis to rebuild a new Malaysia of harmony, excellence and quality, setting the country with confidence and certainty into a new future to be, in the words of Bapa Malaysia Tunku Abdul Rahman, “a beacon of light in a distracted and disturbed world”!
Every ethnicity must come out of the fear and hate arising from the false belief that that it is facing an existential threat – for if every community, ethnicity and culture is facing an existential threat, who is creating all these threats to all the communities, ethnicities and cultures in the country?
Let us have the commitment for Malaysia to be a showcase to the world of the success of Alliance of Civilisations.
As Malaysia is the confluence of four great civilisations of the world, Malay/Islamic, Chinese, Indian and Western, let us come out of our ethnic shells and enclaves, interact, appreciate and accept the virtues and best values of each other’s ethnicity, culture and civilisation and not to fall victim to desperados who only want to engender and incite suspicion, distrust, fear and hatred – by pitting race against race, religion against religion, culture against culture and civilisation against civilisation.
The report that famed Malaysian cartoonist, Zulkiflee SM Anwarul Haque, or better known as Zunar, has left his school chat group because racism that laced much of the conversation was too revolting for him to stomach should be an example to all Malaysians – that we are all Malaysians, although we are also Malays, Chinese, Indians, Kadazans or Ibans.